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McCloskeys sue UPI, photographer over iconic image confronting protesters
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McCloskeys sue UPI, photographer over iconic image confronting protesters

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PROTEST

Mark and Patricia McCloskey at their home during June 28, 2020, protest. The McCloskey's on Nov. 6, 2020 sued over the dissemination of this image, alleging it was taken on their property (Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI).

ST. LOUIS — Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the gun-toting couple who gained recognition after confronting protesters passing by their home in the Central West End, have sued a United Press International photographer and the wire service, alleging a photo that has risen to international prominence was taken on their property.

In a lawsuit filed Friday in St. Louis Circuit Court, the McCloskeys accuse UPI photographer Bill Greenblatt of trespassing to capture one of the most iconic images of the confrontation between the McCloskeys and protesters on their way to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house.

The couple, known for being litigious even before the June 28 encounter, said Greenblatt’s photo has contributed to their “significant national recognition and infamy.” In addition to Greenblatt and the news service, the McCloskeys are suing Redbubble Inc., a San Francisco-based online marketplace for print-on-demand products based on user-submitted artwork.

Their image has proliferated across the world, the McCloskeys allege, with Redbubble, Greenblatt and UPI profiting from “t-shirts, masks, and other items, and licensing use of photographs bearing Plaintiffs’ likenesses, without obtaining Plaintiffs’ consent.”

Often their image on merchandise sold by Redbubble is accompanied with “mocking and pejorative taglines or captions,” causing them “humiliation, mental anguish, and severe emotional distress,” the suit alleges.

They have received death threats, and additional protesters have come to their property, the McCloskeys say in their lawsuit.

“Defendants acted outrageously and beyond all reasonable bounds of decency, with their conduct regarded as atrocious and intolerable by any member of a civilized society,” they wrote in the lawsuit.

In addition to damages, the McCloskey’s are asking the court to bar the use of the photo and to transfer the photo’s ownership to them, along with any other images captured from their property.

The lawsuit follows UPI’s consideration of its own copyright actions against the couple. The news service said recently it was considering whether to send a “cease and desist” order to the couple because of their use of the UPI photo as part of a personal greeting card.

Newspaper photographers are allowed to capture images from public rights of way. The McCloskeys live on a private street and have argued that protesters were trespassing.

They have been charged in St. Louis with unlawful use of a weapon and evidence tampering related to the June incident. No one was hurt, and the McCloskeys have pleaded not guilty in a case that has become a political lightning rod, with Republican Gov. Mike Parson vowing to pardon them if they are convicted. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, also a Republican, intervened in the case in an attempt to have it dismissed.

The McCloskeys spoke at the Republican National Convention as the Republican Party sought to portray itself as the party of law and order, gun rights and property rights amid a summer of protests following police killings of Black Americans in some cities.

Efforts to reach the McCloskeys’ attorney, Anthony G. Simon, were unsuccessful. Greenblatt referred all questions to the UPI director of photography in Washington, who could not be reached for comment.

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